Early this year, the Republican Party lost control of the White House and the United States Senate to the Democratic Party after Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff were sworn into office.
Since then, Republican state legislators in several states, especially across the Sun Belt, have been working furiously on schemes aimed at stopping people from voting in future elections. And not just any people, but people who would most likely support Democratic candidates and progressive causes.
Four states so far have adopted or are poised to adopt sweeping anti-voter and anti-participation bills: Georgia, Florida, Iowa, and Texas. These schemes have rightfully been subjected to criticism and scrutiny in the mass media, with analysis of harms and deep dives into the agendas of the Republicans devising the harms.
But while coverage of these bills isn’t too far to find — a quick news search will yield plenty of articles — the actual bills themselves are harder to find.
That’s why I’ve written this post. As a research-driven organization, we are believers in the usefulness of primary sources. Even a primary source that contains propaganda and improper statements of legislative intent can be useful.
So, here are the texts of each one of these anti-voting bills. Note that many of the most onerous provisions are buried deep within. You’ll need to read carefully to find them. You may want to scroll to the end of each bill and read backwards.
We’ll start with Iowa, the Hawkeye State, which was first out of the gate.
Iowa: Senate File 413
Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 413 back in March. Among other things, this bill reduces the hours of polling places and requires that ballots returned by mail be received before polls close, which is designed to increase disqualification rates.
“This is the first major suppression law since the 2020 election. Expect litigation here and elsewhere [as] GOP legislatures follow this path,” Democratic lawyer Marc Elias tweeted on March 8th. (Elias subsequently participated in the filing of a lawsuit against this legislation; the original complaint is available here.)
Georgia: Senate Bill 202
Next up is the Peach Tree State. Due to the state’s Democratic flip last year, SB 202 has probably received the most attention of any of the bills discussed in this post. SB 202 was adopted back in April by Georgia Republicans and Governor Brian Kemp. Here’s a two minute rundown from Stacey Abrams on what’s in it. You can watch Stacey’s comments either before or after you read the bill.
Two lawsuits are pending against the State of Georgia that contend SB 202 is unconstitutional. One was filed by a coalition that includes the SCLC, Georgia Adapt, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, and Latino Community Fund Georgia. You can read the amended complaint from that coalition here.
Florida: Senate Bill 90
We move now to the Sunshine State. Governor Ron DeSantis was so proud of his state’s adoption of legislation to disenfranchise voters and so intent on pleasing Donald Trump that he arranged for the Fox Noise Channel to have exclusive access to the bill signing venue and associated “media availability”.
Elias and the Democracy Docket team filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida minutes after DeSantis signed SB 90. The initial complaint can be read here.
Texas: Senate Bill 7
Unlike the other states, Texas’ assault on voting is not yet final because Governor Greg Abbott has not signed it. However, there is no question that Abbott will sign it — he has repeatedly stated how eager he is to put his signature on it.
The text below is the conference committee’s report, from yesterday.
At over two hundred pages, it’s a rather lengthy piece of legislation. The Texas Tribune describes it as “an expansive bill that would touch nearly the entire voting process, including provisions to limit early voting hours, curtail local voting options and further tighten voting-by-mail, among several other provisions.”
“It was negotiated behind closed doors over the last week after the House and Senate passed significantly different versions of the legislation and pulled from each chamber’s version of the bill,” the Tribune reported. “The bill also came back with a series of additional voting rule changes, including a new ID requirement for mail-in ballots, that weren’t part of previous debates on the bill.”
Here in the Pacific Northwest, which has two Democratic trifectas (located in Washington and Oregon, respectively), we have mostly been working to get rid of barriers to voting instead of putting up new ones.
Attempts to take us backward have gone absolutely nowhere.
For example, Doug Ericksen (R‑WA-42nd District: Whatcom County) introduced a bill to get rid of vote at home, but it died a moment after it went into the hopper. It never received a hearing and nonpartisan staff spent no time analyzing it.
Idaho is sadly a different story.
Republican legislators made assaulting the right to vote and petition a central focus of the 2021 session, as this article from the Idaho Statesman discusses.
A lot of effort went into making it much more difficult to qualify a statewide initiative to the Gem State ballot with Senate Bill 1110, because initiatives can be used to put ideas directly in front of the people for adoption and thereby bypass Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
Republican Governor Brad Little signed SB 1110 into law on April 19th.
The adoption of SB 1110 did not draw any comment or protest from neighboring Washington-based Republicans such as failed gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman, who claim to be staunch defenders of direct democracy.
Nor have attempts to pass similar bills in more than a dozen other states — a nationwide effort being tracked by our friends at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center which recently drew the attention of The New York Times.
From Republicans’ point of view, the initiative, referendum, and recall are apparently only worth having in states with Democratic trifectas or Democratic governors. Otherwise, they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
The presence of Orwellian language in the aforementioned Texas, Iowa, Georgia, and Florida bills (e.g. the use of the name Election Integrity Protection Act) suggests that Republicans are worried about their schemes holding up in court, even if they’re confident that they will ultimately not be held accountable for preventing mostly Democratic voters from voting in the court of public opinion.
The lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters against Florida’s SB 90 observes in one of its opening passages that Republicans really didn’t bother to develop a policy rationale for the bill. That’s because there isn’t one. SB 90, simply put, is designed to please Donald Trump and the cult that worships him.
Together, these foregoing provisions (“Challenged Provisions”) target almost every aspect of the voting process, and they do so without a legitimate purpose, much less a compelling state interest that can justify their restrictions on the franchise.
State Senator Perry Thurston was correct when he described the bill as just one more chapter in Florida’s “sordid history” of “trying to make it harder for people to vote.”
As Representative Omari Hardy aptly observed, the bill is “about making sure that ballots cast by eligible voters don’t count because they didn’t jump through the myriad hoops that this bill creates,” and amounts to nothing more than “legislative engineering of the electorate to shave off in particular people of color.”
The proponents of the bill had no meaningful rebuttal.
The legislator who led the efforts to pass SB 90 in the Florida Senate, Senator Dennis Baxley, effectively acknowledged as much, offering instead this glib rationale for the bill: “Some people say ‘why?’ and I say ‘why not?’ Let’s try it. We can always do it differently next week or next month or next year, but why not try this?”
The answer is because it will deprive lawful Floridians of their most fundamental rights, undermining the integrity of the state’s elections, and once ballots are cast, there will be no meaningful redress for injured voters. The states may be “laboratories of democracy,” but those “experiments” must stay within the confines of the federal constitution. This one does not.
It should be declared invalid and enjoined.
The United States badly needs new federal legislation that would address these state-based attacks on voting. Unfortunately, H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) is presently stuck in the Senate because senators like Dianne Feinstein, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sinema would rather keep the filibuster than keep our Republic. Unless they can be persuaded to change their minds, the only available means of overturning these attacks on voting will be judicial or ballot based.
Thank you so much for supporting Jon Ossoff’s Senate campaign.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.